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The Power of the Dog (2021)—New ZealandThe Power of the Dog (2021)—New Zealand

The strange title of Jane Campion's award-winning western comes straight from Psalm 22:20, which Christians interpreted as a Messianic psalm that was prayed by Christ from the cross: "Save my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog." My wife and I agreed that we didn't exactly like this film, but we also agreed that we kept wondering what would happen next, and that after the film we couldn't stop talking about it. The cruel and super-macho character Phil who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch would seem to be the rabid dog in question. He dominates the film with his angry demons that are only gradually exorcised. He is easy to dislike with his psychological abuse of the three other main characters. He bullies his brother George, harasses the widow Rose (played by Kirsten Dunst) for marrying George for the family money and rages at her alcoholism, and ridicules the effeminate Peter (Rose's son). Set in Montana in the year 1925 on a huge cattle ranch, the movie was filmed in New Zealand, and many have noted the spectacular cinematography. But there's a melancholic tone and a dissonant musical score that hang over this movie, even when we learn why Phil is like he is. All four of the main characters are wounded people, and there are no easy resolutions for any of them. I watched this movie on Netflix.

Dan Clendenin:

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